The Sycamore Arms owners have made a point about how homeless are drawn to an attractive nuisance in the form of their two-story downtown boarding house that has been vacant since it was gutted by fire 16.5 months ago.
And it is “completely unacceptable” to Mayor Steve DeBrum.
Glass shards from broken windows have been installed along the top of the walls at the back of the 15-room boarding house at the corner of Yosemite and Sycamore avenues to deter homeless and others from gaining access.
The mayor said he was contacting Police Chief Jodie Estarziau, who oversees code enforcement, today to address the issue.
DeBrum said that while it is not acceptable for the homeless and others to break into vacant buildings, it is also not acceptable to put in place items designed to injury others whether it is the homeless or firefighters who may have to respond to a fire.
The glass shards are particularly irksome to downtown merchants who are working to pump new life into downtown.
They are in the process of forming a downtown alliance to expand on the success of Maple Avenue where responsible merchants refrained from renting to the first person offering to pay them rent and instead methodically cultivated businesses that would allow them to invest money into improving their properties.
Ironically what is giving merchants and responsible landlords the impetus to finally go forward with a downtown alliance was the City Council taking steps in December to make it impossible for certain businesses to operate in the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite that constitute the historic downtown core.
It essentially blocked a night club from reopening in the building that once housed Bucktooth Billiards and before that the Manteca Department Store. It also effectively stopped any new boarding houses or residences from opening up. The owners of Sycamore Arms lost their right to use that structure for its “existing use” when they failed to make any efforts to repair fire damage within a year of a fire as required by city law. The failure to do so means any existing use before the fire is not grandfathered in as an allowed use.
When a nightclub was operating in the 200 block of West Yosemite it was the hot spot for crime in Manteca. Club Leon before it closed in 2009 wasn’t cooperating with Manteca Police to reduce the calls for officers – many to break up fights and to handle assault complaints -— that hit a city-high 40 during a 12-month period ending May 31, 2009.
Before Sycamore Arms burned, it had been boarded up and vacant for months and created an attractive nuisance for the homeless who essentially turned it into a flophouse. The homeless not only trashed the top floor of the two-story structure but they are also believed to be responsible for starting the fire.
While merchants lauded the city’s zoning changes to steer away problematic businesses from a two block area where many retail building are approaching the century mark, they are pushing for the city to work with them to go after landlords that they say are allowing serious issues to be created that are spilling over and impacting the rest of downtown due to the way errant owners are maintaining and managing their property.
They also correctly point out that downtown is far from being on its last legs. The central district has six financial institutions and a fairly strong retail presence including four furniture stores.
Business owners work hard to stay on top of issues that are created overnight so clients and customers don’t see the disregard the homeless and others who are attracted to vacant structures have for segments of downtown.
It goes without saying that placing glass shards along the edge of walls isn’t what one would call acceptable building maintenance.
Job one for the city isn’t to devise eloquent printed words in a general plan about what they want to see downtown or even hire the fifth or sixth consultant in the past 50 years to come up with a downtown plan.
It is to work with existing businesses and responsible property owners to make sure that irresponsible property owners are held to the standards that the city has established in property maintenance codes.